Rice sellers at the popular Oja Tuntun market in the Ilorin metropolis on Thursday, protested alleged unlawful arrest, detention, and seizure of their goods, said to be locally produced, by men of the Nigerian Customs, Kwara state command.
The protest by the rice sellers, who came out in their large number early in the morning, caused traffic gridlock in around the market as they lamented activities of men of the Customs.
It took heavy presence of security operatives, said to have been mobilized from the state command headquarters of the Nigeria Police, Ilorin to bring the situation under control.
One of the rice sellers, who is the Chairman of Mount Olive Nigeria Limited, along with his staff at the market, Pharm. Ademola Adebola Julius said that men of the Nigerian Customs have been threatening his business in the last four years, despite his support for the Nigeria grown rice.
“Men of the Nigerian Customs Services came to my warehouse around 2am in the night, broke my door, tied my security man down and carted away my rice. 704 bags of Nigerian rice. I have over 10 trailers of the rice inside my warehouse that are purely Nigerian rice.
“Ask any producer of rice in Nigeria, Mount Olive Nigeria Ltd have been supporting them because I am the distributor of Nigerian rice in the whole South West and Nigeria customs just came to frustrate me. I have 480 staff under me. I don’t know what they want from me. I pay my tax regularly. If they are saying I’m not doing my business in an orderly way, what is the orderly way they want me to follow?”
“I have reported to the police. Customs men attacked my company unlawfully and that is why I’m protesting with all my staff for Nigeria government to come to my aid.
“They said I should come and see the AGC today and when I got to their office they said he was not around. Three of my staff were locked up and they collected N50,000 from me before they were released. One of my friends who also came was locked up”, he said.
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While calling on the federal government to intervene, he demanded for the unconditional release of his 704 bags of rice.
“Nigerian Customs service, Kwara state command should release all my rice unconditionally. The presidency should look into the matter, I have branches all over the country. My company is in 23 locations across the country. They should come and investigate. We are ready to cooperate with whoever wants to come and investigate us.
“When I got to Olam farm in Nasarawa state in 2014, I was surprised with what I saw there and I resolved in my mind to support Nigerian rice because it will assist in tackling the issue of unemployment in the country. But here I am being frustrated by the men of Nigerian Customs. They should stop frustrating legitimate business owner like me”, he said.
Also speaking, a former member of the House of Representative in the state, Mr. Akeem Ayedun, condemned activities of the men of the Customs, saying that the men of the Nigerian Customs did not carry out their investigation to ascertain the type of rice Mount Olive has in his warehouse.
“If they are claiming to act on intelligence information, I want to say that they had the wrong information about the rice.
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Services, Kwara state command, S.S Okpo, confirmed that some rice were seized but added that investigation is still going on it the development.
She said that members of the press would be addressed at the end of the investigation